If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am always asking what you mamas want to hear about in Single Mom Chat or on the podcast. One of the moms said that she needed tips for getting involved in her child’s education. I thought, wow! This is such a good topic! I need to take this a bit further and write a post and do a podcast on this (live on Thursday!) So many of us are working moms and do not feel like we have the time to get involved and some of us think that involvement only happens at school. I want to share some ways in which you are able to get involved in your child’s education. Please note: This may require some sacrifice. Your child should not only learn in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. Learning starts at home. You are your child’s first teacher. How can you teach your child to value their education if you don’t?
Review your child’s curriculum.
Before my daughter started talking, I started thinking about her education. I never used baby talk with her and always spoke to her with correct words. I purchased little board books so that we could begin to form her vocabulary. Between the ages of two and three, I knew that I wanted her to attend a daycare or learning center that had the Abeka curriculum because it’s what my cousin used at the homeschool academy she had. I used to volunteer during my summers in New Orleans as a kid and her students in the same grade as me would always know so much more. Some daycares did not have curriculums for kids that were younger than four which made me think that they were literally a babysitting service. They claimed to teach your kid but had no concrete information and that bothered me. It really helps if you get involved in your child’s age at an early age to help you remain consistent throughout the years. Now that my daughter is in public school, I don’t have much control over choosing a type of curriculum that I’d like. Before the year or new semester begins, I always like to review the curriculum to see where my daughter is at and review the school’s policies. I believe it helps to know what will be covered and how you can help out, especially if your child will be learning new things. If your child is going to be in a public school where he or she may be already familiar with a lot of the topics, you can incorporate some things at home to stimulate their brain. You can also help at home by reinforcing what is taught at school. It is helpful to communicate your expectations of the teacher at the very beginning of the school year and develop a relationship with them, which brings me to my next tip.
Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher.
As a single mom, it’s so important to understand that you and your child’s teacher are partners, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to attend meetings and be present. You are your child’s advocate! If you do not advocate for them, who will? No one. I believe that as the kids approach middle school, you teach them how to advocate for themselves but also continue to assist them along the way. I also believe that you should let the teacher know that you value your child’s education and you are committed to helping them become successful. What I have learned is that all teachers are not created equal. Some will only do the bare minimum and these are the ones that you have to stay on top of. They may not let you know how your kid is doing until an issue or problem happens so I encourage you to check in biweekly, at least. I normally send my daughter’s teacher an email to see if there is anything I can work on with her at home since she is in Kindergarten and they don’t have homework, which was frustrating originally because she had homework in Pre-K at the private program she was attending previously. So even if you feel like the child’s teacher is crappy and does the bare minimum, don’t voice it to your child. They are always listening and you influence their thoughts. So if you have an attitude when it comes to helping them with their work or discussing school behavior, they will have one too.
Attend the parent teacher conferences.
I believe it’s more effective for you to show up in person at the parent teacher conferences. Conference calls are just not the same as talking to them face to face, letting them know that you mean business. I know that a lot of us don’t like to use our PTO unless it’s for emergencies, sick time, or vacation time. This is where communication with leadership is important. Let them know that you want to be involved with your child’s education. I know what you are thinking. Not all leadership will understand but you can at least try. If you work for a company that allows you to make up time, you can simply take off an hour or two to go to the conference. You will thank yourself later for doing this. This is a part of the sacrifice as a mom. If you are not able to make it during the time that is allotted for that day, ask the teacher if you can come before or after school another. Most times they are flexible. Let the teacher know that you want to know about issues, whether behavioral or academic. It does not matter if they think the issue is small or not, you want to know. Small issues lead to big issues. If your child is having an issue, ask the teacher how the two of you can work together to solve it. Write down your questions and bring them with you to the conference. This is a great time for you to ask about a certain skill if you are not knowledgeable and know that your child is struggling with it. I always get great tips from asking questions. Parent teacher conferences do not have to only be scheduled by the teacher, you can schedule them too. Try your best to be an active listener during this time. I know sometimes we are frustrated before we get there but we have to learn how to be calm so that we can understand what’s happening in the classroom. We have to model behavior for our children. The teacher spends more time with your child than you do on the weekdays. I believe the teacher values you as a parent more when they know that they have your support at home. If for some reason the teacher is not effective, follow the chain of command and do not be afraid to use your voice to let them know that and have your reasons why, including examples of your attempts to reach out and work on various issues.
Show your face at the school.
Many schools have opportunities to volunteer. I believe every school has a PTA. I am a part of the PTA for my daughter’s school but the meetings are always at 9AM which sucks for working moms so I haven’t made time to attend the them. However, I may make an effort to attend during the spring. When the kids have field trips, the teachers normally want parents to attend to chaperone. I had the privilege of doing this for my daughter’s first Kindergarten trip and I took off work with no problem. Chaperoning allowed me to see who was in my daughter’s class, interact with the students, meet some other moms, and connect with the teacher a little more. There are also opportunities for parents to read to the class on Friday mornings, which I haven’t done yet but it is a goal of mine. My daughter has asked countless times. Sigh. Even if you want to sit in the class for a day, you can. There are also several other opportunities to get involved so I encourage you to take time to visit your child’s school website to see what’s available for you to get involved. Again, I just believe you are taken more serious when you SHOW UP.
Be available to assist your child with their homework
The kids need to know they have your support. Those who are in elementary have not fully mastered doing homework on their own so they may need a little help but you can still encourage working independently and build their confidence. Remember to be patience as their little attention spans are short. Be there to help them when they get stuck but do not complete the work for them. I know that is tough after a long day but as much as you think you are helping them, you are hurting them. In middle and high school, they become self sufficient and don’t really need your help unless they can’t figure out how to do something. After they have completed the work, I believe it is okay for you to check for completeness and make sure they understand what they are doing. If you find that you do not know how to help them, ask them if they have an example of the problem from class or try researching Google and YouTube. There are tons of supplemental resources out there. Be sure to give your child positive feedback as well. You can also set aside 10-15 minutes and let your them read aloud to you and you can read to them at bedtime. Are you aware of some of the benefits of reading? The more the child reads, the better their reading skills become. Reading also improves their vocabulary and general knowledge.
Foster learning through activities
Education should not be happening only in the classroom. Children can learn through play! Did you know that? There are countless opportunities to teach your child. On the weekends, take your child to the local museums. There are always learning opportunities there. When you are going to the grocery store let the child count the money, learn the names of vegetables and fruits, and read the shopping list. My daughter loves to read signs and labels. Even when we are driving and we pass different stores, I ask her to read the signs. There are even lessons that can be learned at the park or playing board games. Find out what activities your child likes and get them involved! Learning should be fun! We want our children to be involved in things that stimulate their mind.
I know that becoming involved will require time and commitment but YOU CAN DO IT, even if this means that you cannot volunteer at the school but you are making a conscious effort to be active at home. I don’t want you to be that parent that is just too busy to where you won’t show up for your own child. What are you currently doing to be involved in your child’s education or will you be trying any of the things I mentioned? Let me know in the comments below.